NRF: Consumers Contemplate Less Back-To-School Spending

After spending more on school supplies and electronics in 2014, the average family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend $630.36 on electronics, apparel and other educational needs in the back-to-school season, according to the National Retail Federation. The figure represents a decline from $669.28 last year, according to the latest edition of NRF’s annual Back-to-School Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

Total spending is expected to come in at $24.9 billion. Total spending for K-12 and college, an extrapolation that incorporates adults 18 and older, is expected to reach $68 billion, NRF stated.

Still, despite the spending decrease, survey results point to a more confident consumer when it comes to spending and the impact of the economy, NRF asserted. The survey found 76.4% of families with school-age would change their spending because of the economy, the lowest proportion in the seven years NRF has been tracking the metric, and down from 81.1% from last year.

“As seen over the last 13 years, spending on back-to-school has consistently fluctuated based on children’s needs each year, and it’s unlikely most families would need to restock and replenish apparel, electronics and supplies every year,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “Parents this summer will inventory their children’s school supplies and decide what is needed and what can be reused, which just makes good budgeting sense for families with growing children.”

He added, “Heading into the second half of the year, we are optimistic that economic growth and consumer spending will improve after a shaky first half of the year.”

Growth in job creation and consumer confidence has contributed to the economic recovery, which could positively influence how families shop for school items this year, NRF asserted. The survey indicated that 40.6% of respondents who said the economy is impacting their spending plans will look for sales more often, down from the 46.2% last year. The figure as recorded in the latest survey is the lowest since NRF began tracking the effect of the economy on spending plans in 2009. Additionally, 29.8% of survey respondents will buy more generic or store brand products, down from 34% last year and another survey low, NRF noted.

Among consumers who are set to buy children’s back-to-school items, 92.7% will purchase new apparel, spending an average of $217.82, though most, at 94.1%, will head out for new school supplies, spending an average of $97.74.

In 2014, 58.3% of parents said they would buy electronics for their school-age children, and planned to spend an average of $212.35, according to NRF, one of the highest amounts seen in the survey’s history. Having less of a need for electronics this year, however, families said they would decrease their spending on devices for their children, intending to spend an average of $197.24.

In the survey, 19.6% of respondents said they would shop at least two months before school, down from 22.5% last year; 42.8% said they would shop three weeks to one month before school, down slightly from 44.5% last year; and 30.3% said they would shop one to two weeks before school, up from 25.4% last year.

As for where they would shop, 56.4% of respondents said they would head to their local department store while 62.2% would look to a discount store. Other locations that proved alluring were clothing stores, favored by 53.5%, electronics stores, cited by 22.4%, and office supply stores, attractive to 35.9%. As for e-commerce, 35.6% of those looking for school items said they would shop online.

In this year’s survey, and for the first time, NRF asked about shoppers’ intentions to use retailers’ online operations. Of those planning to shop on the web, 48.4% said they would take advantage of retailers’ buy online, pick up in store or ship to store options, while 17.3% indicated they would look for expedited shipping offers and 92.1% would take advantage of retailers’ free shipping offers.

Trendy Millennials have changed how they view dorm décor needs, as indicated by spending intention on matching bed sets, curtains, bath linens and other home goods. According to the survey, 51.3% of college shoppers plan to purchase dorm or apartment furnishings, spending, on average, $126.30, up 30% from $96.70 last year and the most since NRF began tracking such purchasing in 2007.